Two teams want to rebound

During the Pac-10 Media Teleconference that was streamed live on, two somber sounding coaches talked about disappointing losses that both of their teams had suffered in their last games and how they look at the teams they are about to play in the next game. That next contest is on Saturday when the Oregon Ducks (3-1) travel to Palo Alto and play the Stanford Cardinal (1-1) with a 2 p.m. kickoff time and no live television coverage.

How does a coach reinvigorate his team after a crushing blow? That is the obvious question for both Mike Bellotti of Oregon and Walt Harris of Stanford and both seem to say it is preparation for the next opponent.

Last week, the Ducks played and dominated the No. 1 ranked team in the country, USC. Played and dominated for one and a half quarters that is. Then sometime in the middle of the 2nd quarter and certainly in the 2nd half of the game at Autzen Stadium, USC rose up and swatted the Ducks down. To many, the yellow and green clad players came out of the locker room in the second half of the game last Saturday and were flat and drained instead of being exuberant over being ahead of the juggernaut from Los Angeles. At the end it was an embarrassing 45-13 loss in front of a packed home stadium. How will Bellotti get his team to bounce back and ready for Stanford?

"As our players have said, it is the hungriest team that is going to win," said Bellotti of the upcoming game this week against Stanford. "Both teams have suffered losses, ones that are difficult to come back from for different reasons. Overall I am very aware and I'll make sure my team is very aware of the potential of this Stanford team. They are a very good team. They have good athletes. They can play better than they have played. We saw what they can do against Navy."

Stanford beat Navy, 41-38 on September 10th.

You can excuse Walt Harris if he isn't particularly sympathetic for the Ducks because of their loss last week. In Stanford's last game, the Cardinal overlooked and was ill prepared to take on Mike Bellotti's alma mater, UC Davis, a Div I-AA team, and that resulted in one of the most embarrassing losses suffered by a Division I school this year, a 20-17 loss. Harris is in his first year at Stanford after coming from Pittsburgh. While at Pitt, he led the Panthers to six bowl appearance in eight seasons. Last year, his team finished 8-4 including a visit to the Fiesta Bowl against Utah. Success is something Harris knows about and having been in the coaching business for 30 years, he is capable of boosting his team back up after a crushing loss. What are his thoughts about losing to UC Davis and preparing for the Ducks this week?

"We probably didn't prepare like we were going to be in a hard-nosed football game, and when it became that way, our lack of preparation emotionally, probably got us," admitted Harris about the UC Davis game and preparing for the Oregon game. "I know Mike (Bellotti) is doing the same thing. You can only talk so much. Somewhere they (the players) have to take responsibility and I have to take some responsibility, so it's a combination of both."

There may be a couple of things that led to the Ducks demise last Saturday, other than the obvious one -- that USC is a very good football team. First of all there are some health issues at the running back position. Freshman Jonathan Stewart was unavailable for the game due to a sprained ankle. Sophomore Andiel Brown has been out because of swelling on his knee and Terrence Whitehead suffered a groin injury in the first quarter last week. All these injuries may require freshman Jeremiah Johnson to forgo his red shirt status. Bellotti indicated that Stewart and Whitehead are practicing and he hopes both will be available for the Stanford game. He is not taking any chance though because if Whitehead and Stewart are not ready that only leaves redshirt freshman Terrell Jackson and consequently, Johnson will be taking snaps with the varsity this week in practice.

"I had said earlier that I hoped we had the luxury of redshirting him (but) we may not now," said Bellotti of Johnson's status. "He's a quality back. I feel like he and Jonathan Stewart were maybe the best one-two punch in the nation last year (coming out of high school) and (I) am really excited about that. I was hoping to get the opportunity to separate them by class, but that may not happen now."

Secondly, one other position may have had an injury problem last week against USC -- quarterback. Bellotti mentioned that Kellen Clemens was dinged up in the first half of the USC game and was not quite the same player in the second half as he was in the first quarter. Clemens started out on fire, with his ability to rollout, find a man for a pass completion or to simply tuck the ball in and run. However, somewhere one of the hits took a toll on Clemens. The Ducks brought Dennis Dixon into the fray last Saturday and Dixon responded by going 6-for-7 for 29 yards with one interception, but he also moved the ball down field with his leadership and running. Dixon had 21 yards net on five carries. His performance has prompted the Duck coaching staff to look harder at him and Bellotti indicated Dixon would see more playing time. The quarterback position in Oregon's offense now is a very physically demanding job and having two quarterbacks is becoming necessary.

"(Dennis Dixon) will play more at the quarterback position," announced Bellotti. "I feel like there is a great one-two punch (with Clemens) there. He (Dixon) brings in a different speed level into the game and certainly makes for more of a dangerous offensive attack in terms of the quarterback keeping the ball on the various option opportunities. He also threw the ball very, very well. His command of the offense is improving."

Harris has had some quarterback woes of his own. Starter Trent Edwards has been out with an injured hand suffered in the UC Davis game. Against Navy early this season, Edwards was 21-of-33 for 235 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Harris hopes Edwards will be available for the Oregon game. Edwards has been practicing and the Stanford coaching staff is crossing their fingers that Edwards can make progress in his recovery.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure he doesn't extend the injury," Harris said of Edwards' condition. "He threw a little bit on Sunday when we practiced and hopefully he will continue to get better."

If Edwards is not able to play, then T.C. Ostrander will be seeing time against the Ducks. In last year's 16-13 Oregon win, Ostrander came in for Edwards and threw for 236 yards on 18 completions of 29 attempts.

Fullback Nick Frank is the leading receiver so far for the Cardinal with six catches for 45 yards. Mark Bradford is a starting wide receiver but in this early season only has four catches for 51 yards. The Cardinal only has one touchdown pass and Edwards threw that to Evan Moore. Moore has a total of 3 catches for 66 yards this season.

Converted receiver Anthony Kimbell is the starting running back and in the first two games and has a total of 110 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. Jason Evans also has 21 carries for a total of 80 yards net but has not scored.

Last year, the Ducks' defensive line was impressive against the Cardinal. The Ducks defensive line had a great game in Palo Alto a year ago, but didn't have as good a game last week against USC. Harris recognizes his offensive line will have to meet the challenge.

"They had a pretty good game against Stanford last year, I think they had 10 sacks, we watched them against Southern Cal (USC) and they didn't have as good a game against them obviously as they against Stanford," commented Harris. "They've (the Oregon defensive line) been a dominant part of their team, so it will be a real challenge for our players on the offensive line (who) are really going to have to step up and play with great technique and fundamentals."

If Harris is worried about Oregon's spread offense, he doesn't seem to be indicating so. He predicted that while the Cardinal has not seen an offense quite like the Ducks, that most likely they would stick to their normal defensive scheme and not bring in extra defensive backs.

Stanford does boast of one of the best place kickers in Michael Sgroi. Even though he is just 3-for-5 this year, all his successful field goals have been between 40 and 50 yards.

The weather for this weekend's game should not be a factor unlike last year's rainy game day. This will be the last time the Ducks will play in original Stanford Stadium. Built in 1921, the stadium is scheduled for major renovation just as soon as the 2005 season ends.

A win for the Ducks will lift the spirit of the team and fans and put Oregon back into the hunt for a Pac-10 championship. Likewise for Stanford, a team that few felt would prosper much in the 2005 season a win over Oregon will make up a lot of ground for the Cardinal program. Can both teams bounce back and put on a competitive game on Saturday? Everyone will find out starting at 2 p.m. with the kickoff.

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